Andrew Seaman Editor for Job Seekers & #GetHired at LinkedIn News
Published on May 18, 2020
A lot of you have reached out to me over the past couple of months about the urge to learn new skills during this difficult time. You may want to take courses that will help you land a more senior position at your next employer. Or, you may want to learn certain skills that will help you transition to a new industry.
Regardless of your reasoning, you’ve all also expressed a desire to be strategic about the skills you learn and the classes you invest your time in during the pandemic. I reached out to Erika Andersen, who is the founder of the consulting firm Proteus International, to learn about the ins and outs of learning new skills. She is also the author of several books, including Be Bad First.
Andersen said that it makes sense that people would want to learn new skills during this difficult time. “I feel like a lot of people are feeling lost,” she said. “It makes you feel productive and you are being productive.” Additionally, learning new skills increases your confidence, which can be a powerful tool when looking for work. “Even just going into a job interview, feeling that confident mindset comes across.”
Learning to level up
If you like what you’ve been doing professionally, you may want to learn skills to confidently chase after a more senior position at other companies or to go into a niche area of your field. In those cases, Andersen said it would be helpful if you’re still in contact with formers colleagues or managers who can give you objective feedback on your current skills and abilities.
“Sometimes the best assessment is to ask someone who knows you or sees you professionally,” she said.
If you tell the person you hope to be a manager in your next job, you can ask them what skills you need to be in that type of position and what you need to do to get better in those areas.
“Find some people who know you and ask them to be honest,” said Andersen.
Those of you who want to focus on a specific area within your existing profession should also reach out to people to learn more about that specialty and what you need to succeed.
“Talk to some people, ask a bunch of questions,” said Andersen. She added that you may want to ask the person questions as if you were a child interviewing someone on career day. You can ask them how long they work each day, what training they completed to do their job, what their days are like and so on.
While simple, those questions can provide you a roadmap and also give you a window into what your professional life may be like if you land a similar role.
Learning to take a leap
As we discussed in a recent edition of #GetHired, many of you are also probably thinking about moving to a new industry. You can read more about that by clicking here.
Andersen suggested evaluating new career paths based on three criteria — similar to those outlined in Jim Collins’s book Good to Great. Are you good at it? Are you passionate about it? Can you make a living from it? A promising career can often be found at the intersection of those questions.
“I think what happens a lot is that people try to upskill and they only take one or two of these things into account,” she said. A person may be good at math and can make a living as an accountant, but the person may not be successful without passion for the work.
Once you narrow your options to a few possibilities, Andersen suggested following an approach similar to a person who is looking to specialize within their existing profession. Find people working in the area you’re thinking about pursuing and ask them a lot of curious and kid-like questions.
“If you hear things that continue to spark your interest and continue to feel aligned to you, continue,” she said.
In addition to volunteering your services to nonprofit organizations to test out the career, Andersen said there are a lot of online assessments that can help you learn your competency in different fields.
If you find that you have a gap in your skills that you’re willing to put the effort in to fill, you can pursue training or courses.
“The sad truth of life is that there is super crappy training and good training,” said Andersen. “So you have to be a good consumer.” She suggested reading online reviews and talking to friends or colleagues about the training that they enjoyed to find quality programs.
She also suggested matching your learning style with training. If you’re someone who learns best by following along with an instructor, you likely want to select a course that will allow you to do the activities as they describe the process, for example.
Selling your skills
Once you learned the skill or skills and are ready to launch yourself into a new job, Andersen said it’s important to know how to advertise your abilities to future employers.
“What we encourage people to do is to really think about their superpower,” she said. “The way you get to that is you think about the things people have been telling you you’re great at for your entire life. People tend to have a few of those things.”
Once you pitch your superpower, Andersen said you then bring up your experiences to show how you’ve deployed it in real-life situations and the skills you’ve learned along the way.
What’s your approach to learning new skills? Join the conversation.
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